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Dalvin Cook Handles Heavy Workload in Regular-Season Return

MINNEAPOLIS — There was no easing Dalvin Cook back into the action Sunday afternoon.

No, the Vikings running back touched the ball early and often in his return from an ACL injury. And he looked just like his old self.

Cook showed off his versatility and explosiveness as he tallied 22 touches for 95 total yards in Minnesota's Week 1 win over the 49ers.

"There was nothing I had to prove," Cook said. "I know the type of player I can be.

"The Vikings know all the potential I've got … I just have to keep getting better every weekend … keep living up to it, which I am," Cook added.

Cook exploded onto the scene in 2017 as he had 354 rushing yards and two scores in three-plus games. But an ACL injury in Week 4 ended his rookie season, leading to months and months of rehab.

The Vikings, who limited Cook's action in the preseason, decided to get their running back going right away.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins hit Cook for a 9-yard pass on the game's first play before Cook picked up two yards and a first down on the ground. Then it was a 12-yard pass from Cousins and a 1-yard run for the running back.

Cook touched the ball on five of Minnesota's first eight plays, and his 95 total yards accounted for more than a quarter of the Vikings offensive production.

Cook finished with 40 yards on 16 carries and added 55 yards on a career-high six receptions.

Cousins, playing his first game with the 2017 second-round pick, said Cook's flexibility in the offense is a key element for Minnesota.

"I had just heard so many things about how dynamic of a player he is, and until you really get out here in a real game, it's hard to truly tell," Cousins said. "I saw for the first time how special he is as a running back."

Cook's lone blemish on the day on a 15-yard run, his longest of the day. Cook wiggled his way through the defense before powering through two defenders and appeared to be on his way to breaking off a long run.

But he was slowed by a wardrobe malfunction as his right shoe came off, allowing the 49ers to catch him from behind and pop the ball loose.

"Tried to make a play and I was close … I think if I would have had my shoe on it would have been better," Cook said. "I couldn't really get my feet in the ground because my shoe was off but we all have to take care of the football. No excuses."

Even so, Cousins and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer liked what they saw in Cook's return.

"The run where we did have a fumble at the end, it was an impressive run," Cousins said. "You don't see that run play in and play out in the NFL … very few guys can do that."

Added Zimmer: "I thought he had some good runs. Sometimes there wasn't anything there but he ran hard. The one ball he fumbled, that was going to be a great run until he fumbled. He hasn't had a lot of contact … we'll get some more but I think this game will help a lot."

Cook will now get his first taste of the intense rivalry between the Vikings and Packers.

"Good start," Cook said. "A lot of stuff to work on, a lot of stuff to get done in practice.

"But," Cook added, "it was definitely a good start."

It's full-steam ahead for No. 33.

"I think Dalvin embraced it," fellow running back Latavius Murray, who had 11 carries for 42 yards," said of Cook's return. "I think embracing that and not thinking, 'Let me ease my way into it' or Let me take things slow,' … you just embrace being out there and knowing that you're only going to get better. I think he did a really good job of that."